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Friday, March 8, 2013

Pipe and Drum Corps take on NYC by Michelle Libby

The Maine Public Safety Pipe and Drum Corps performs in parades, at funerals, weddings and now they can add New York City to their list after ten of their members traveled to play with Nassau County Firefighters Pipes and Drums in February.

The Maine corps is comprised of approximately 30 members, seven of whom live in Windham and two who live in Standish. Sean Theberge, the pipe major who plays the bagpipes, was one of the members who lives in Windham and traveled to New York. The other is Irene LeClaire, who is in the color guard.

The organization came into being in August of 2005. They decided as a group not to charge people when they played at funerals for law enforcement and firefighters, which others did. The corps plays at Byrnes Irish Pubs in Bath and Brunswick on the seventeenth of every month in anticipation of St. Patrick’s Day. Other practices are held weekly at the Freeport Fire Department or at the Sheriff’s Office in Portland.

When the group practices or when they perform on the seventeenth of every month, they pass around what they call the Christmas sock, according to LeClaire. The money accumulates until the corps decides to give it to “a charity of some sort. Normally it goes outside of the corps,” she said.

At Christmas this year, the corps decided to give the sock money to a family in the Nassau County Firefighters Pipes and Drums who lost their house during superstorm Sandy. LeClaire suspects that the money raised was close to $2,000, after the passing of the sock and the matching funds added by Byrnes Irish Pubs. The idea came from one of the Maine members, Brian Young, who moved to the area from Long Island. He suggested donating the money to the family.

In February, the Nassau County group hosts a large fundraiser called the Irish Bash Fundraiser to raise money for their organization. They personally invited the Maine corps down to play with them because they were touched by the donation. According to LeClaire, no one plays with them at their fundraiser. This was a huge honor, according to LeClaire. 

“They treated us like royalty,” said LeClaire. Once there, the Nassau County’s pipe major arranged for the New York Fire Department to tour them around the city including stops to perform at Central Park, Times Square and at the fire station across from Ground Zero.

“We always start and end with Amazing Grace,” said LeClaire.

“It was a very moving experience,” said Band President Mark Arnold.

The Maine Public Safety Pipe and Drum Corps is always looking for new members. They teach people how to play the bagpipes, which can take as little as four months or can take longer if one has never played. The kilts, which cost $600, are earned through doing so many performances or helping out at parades and functions. It can be pricy to be a part of the group to start, but the family like atmosphere makes up for that LeClaire said. “We have a blast. One thing about the Corps is they all treat one another like family. They hug hello and they hug goodbye,” she said.

LeClaire as well as her daughter, Renee and son, David are involved. Other Windham residents who are a part of the Corps are Chris Cota, Theberge, Doug Estes and Carol Waig. Kevin and Penny Joyce are members who live in Standish.
In addition to the sock money they donate, the corps also gives a $500 scholarship to a student who has a connection with Scottish heritage or public safety. Last year the scholarship went to a fire science student in Bangor.

On St. Patrick’s Day watch for them at RiRa Irish Pub and Bull Feeney’s in Portland and Byrnes Irish Pub in Brunswick and then the one in Bath. FMI, visit www.mainepipes.org.

The Maine Public Safety Pipe and Drum Corps dressed in their Maine tartan kilts performed in prime locations in New York City while being escorted by New York Firefighters.

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